Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

New report: People on bike, foot are at risk due to lack of investment

Posted by on January 28th, 2010 at 10:01 am

Show me the money.

On the same day President Obama announced $8 billion for high speed rail and “the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System,” a report released today by the non-profit Alliance for Biking and Walking (formerly known as the Thunderhead Alliance) shows that in almost every state and major U.S. city people that walk and bike are at a disproportionate risk of being killed and are more likely to have serious health issues because they receive less than their fair share of transportation dollars.

I know you’re thinking, “Duh, we already knew that!” — but in this country, where biking and walking are still struggling to gain respect as viable modes of transportation, these sort of reports are needed to pressure lawmakers into action and to give advocates and citizens ammunition to push for change.

“State investment choices can be a life or death issue for people who walk and bike.”
— Jeff Miller, President of The Alliance for Biking and Walking

Bicycling and Walking in the United States: The 2010 Benchmarking Report (funded by the Centers for Disease Control, Bikes Belong Coaltion, and Planet Bike) finds that while biking and walking make up 10% of trips in the U.S. and people not in motor vehicles make up 13% of traffic fatalities, they receive less than 2% of federal transportation dollars.

This report should provide much-needed urgency to planners and city officials to improve and build more active transportation infrastructure. Now. Or, as Alliance president Jeff Miller puts it, “State investment choices can be a life or death issue for people who walk and bike.”

The report also reveals that in addition more to more people dying, places with inadequate non-motorized transportation infrastructure have, on average, the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Not surprisingly, states with the highest levels of walking and biking have the lowest rates of those serious health issues.

Portland came out on top of 51 major U.S. cities for Walk and Bike to School participation.

The Alliance has also ranked the 51 largest U.S. cities in biking and walking levels, safety, funding, advocacy, and policies.

How’d Portland and Oregon do?

  • Portland had more schools participate in National Walk and Bike to School Day than any other major U.S. city (47.3 schools on a 3-yr average).
  • Portland ranked 9th in overall level of biking and walking. Oregon ranked 5th.
  • Portland ranked 18th in per capita walk/bike spending. Oregon ranked 28th.
  • Portland ranked 1st in cycling to work and 14th in walking to work.
  • Portland ranked 7th in biking safety. Oregon ranked 10th.
  • Portland ranked 14th in walking safety. Oregon ranked 20th.

This report also compared city staff levels devoted to biking and walking and includes an impressive amount of reference information on advocacy resources and bike policy and program comparisons for major U.S. cities. Read more and download the full report at PeoplePoweredMovement.org/benchmarking.

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  • Jackattak January 28, 2010 at 10:35 am

    WOW! The second graph shows it all. If that doesn’t spell out Portland’s emphasis on biking and walking, I don’t know what does.

    Shame on Seattle and SF.

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  • spare_wheel January 28, 2010 at 11:35 am

    not so good: 35% of traffic fatalities in pdx are bicyclists or peds.

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  • Allan January 28, 2010 at 11:40 am

    @1: i dunno. does it just show emphasis on this particular program?

    The $ spent on bike/ped don’t reflect the present state of affars/need for stuff. i’m not saying we shouldn’t be spending more, but simply building sidewalks because you were too stupid to require the developers to build them originally seems different than putting in HAWK signals and bike lanes

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  • Michael M. January 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Not sure what you mean, Jackattak (#1). According to the “Media Fact Sheet” graph showing overall bike & walk ranking, Portland is tied with Seattle at 11%, and San Francisco comes in ahead at 12%, as do several other cities including Los Angeles (12%), Washington D.C. (12%), Philadelphia (13%), and way out ahead of the pack (of course!), New York (20%). That’s “% of trips by bike or foot.”

    Portland’s problem is that so few people here walk anywhere, even to school. The graph Jonathan included above is participation in a one-day event, averaged over the past three years. So we can get people to walk/bike to school one day a year. We just can’t get anyone else to walk anywhere, any other time of the year.

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  • Jackattak January 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Agreed, it does just show emphasis on this program.

    That being said, education begins with the kids. They are the future and if we’re influencing them away from destructive car culture now when they’re young and spongy, it will hopefully grow into the future.


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  • Jackattak January 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

    2nd graph, Michael M. The one showing “Number of Schools Participating in Walk and Bike to School Day”, where Portland is leagues ahead of anyone else.

    That what the graph I was referring to. Sorry for the confusion.

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  • 9watts January 28, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Nothing like a well-done bar chart to bring home the message that those who decide how to prioritize spend on infrastructure have not been paying attention. One of these days we’re all going to be walking and biking… everywhere. And not because we asked that the money on infrastructure be spent differently but because cars and planes will have ceased to be viable modes of transport.

    But in the mean time we should by all means demand that the funding be more equitably spent. And I wouldn’t stop at 10% or 15%. We should be pointing out how ill advised it is to spend any more money on infrastructure dedicated to cars. Highways will soon* be the ‘stranded assets’ that nuclear power plants are to (some) electric utilities. Expensive infrastructure that the ‘owners’ can no longer afford to maintain or clean up because their usefulness evaporated when history overtook them.

    When making decisions about infrastructure, 15 years is soon.

    Excellent bit of journalism, Mr. Maus.

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  • AaronF January 28, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I think you state their findings a bit more strongly than they do. While they refer to a correlation, you claim a causality.

    From the conclusion:

    “Case studies show that the countries and cities that invest the most in bicycling and walking have higher bicycling and walking mode share, and are safer places to bicycle and walk.”

    To me, that’s a far cry from “People on bike, foot are at risk due to lack of investment”

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  • AaronF January 28, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    To clarify, you could also say “Case studies show that the countries and cities that have higher bicycling and walking mode share are safer places to bicycle and walk, and invest the most in bicycling and walking.”

    I mean, this is also a bit of a “No duh” but it doesn’t imply that Spending begets safety. Maybe safety begets numbers, which beget spending.

    I probably come off as a stickler, but I think it’s an important distinction.

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  • RyNO Dan January 28, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Three cheers for quantitative analysis !!!

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  • jarrod January 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I agree with AaronF – there’s value here, but it’s not an argument that lack of investment has created a safety risk. Given some of the comments on here, it seems like it’s worth pointing out that cyclists and pedestrians can be expected, by definition, to have a higher share of fatalities than number of trips we account for, since we aren’t protected by big highly engineered steel cages like drivers are. A fender bender level collision in a car could be, and often is, fatal to a cyclist or pedestrian.

    I’d also question the relevance of biking and walking only getting 1.2% of transportation dollars. We keep saying this kind of transportation infrastructure is cheaper, so we ought to expect our share to be lower, even when adjusted for percentage of trips. I mean, if bike and pedestrian infrastructure costs 1/8 of comparable motor vehicle infrastructure (seems reasonable, I think), then the existing numbers are perfectly appropriate: 1.2 is 12.5% of 9.6

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) January 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I guess i’m confused. It seems simple to me: Because cities and states are not spending enough money on infrastructure that makes biking and walking safer, the people that do it are at risk and the people that don’t do it (because the infrastructure isn’t there) are suffering from more health issues.

    And yes, I do state the findings a bit more strongly. guess i’m guilty of letting my advocate heart bleed into my reporting.

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  • AaronF January 28, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Jonathan, do you understand the difference between correlation and causation? …and then, the importance of the distinction?

    That’s my main sticking point here…

    If you guess what the cause is based on a correlation, you have way more ways to guess wrong than right… and historically lots of things that have seemed “duh” obvious when guessing a cause have later been seen as “duh” obviously wrong.

    There’s no place in the report where they say “If you build it, they will come.” It’s just as possible that “If they come, they’ll make you build it with political pressure.”

    See, that’s the problem with correlation/causation.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) January 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm

      thanks for that explanation AaronF,

      I hear you about the perils of correlation/causation. thanks for the feedback.

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  • Anonymous January 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    And grouping walking in with cycling wrongly implies that cycling is just as dangerous.

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  • GregSea January 29, 2010 at 12:12 am

    XKCD has a nice comic on the correlation/causation thing (be sure to hover over and read the alt text…)


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